As a 2011 ninth-round Draft pick out of the University of Oklahoma, Tyler Ogle expected to set the Minor Leagues on fire.
Nearly two years and many bumps and bruises later, things are finally beginning to fall into place for the Dodgers catching prospect. Ogle collected four hits, including a pair of home runs, on Sunday afternoon as the Class A Great Lakes Loons rolled past the Dayton Dragons, 13-4.
The five-RBI game lifted his batting average to .417 through eight games, an encouraging step for the 22-year-old following a tumultuous 2012.
"Last year was a growing up year for me," Ogle said.
After signing with the Dodgers for $900,000, he spent six games in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2011. The following year, Ogle expected to begin climbing the Minor League ladder but was surprised when he was sent back to Arizona.
"I was drafted fairly high and I thought I was going to come into pro ball and continue to have success. That's didn't happen," he said. "My swing didn't work well with wood and my catching needed work. They kept me in extended [spring training], and I did a lot of growing up there. I had to fight to get myself out of extended and out of the AZL every day."
Fight he did and, after a couple weeks in the Arizona League, the Dodgers bumped Ogle up to Great Lakes. In the Midwest League, all his progress at the plate unraveled as he started 0-for-20 at the plate. The Dodgers sent him to Rookie-level Ogden, where he reunited with coaches Johnny Washington and Doug Mientkiewicz, who had helped him at extended spring training.
Ogle hit .258 in eight Pioneer League games and would have stayed longer. But when another catcher in the system got injured, Ogle was bumped back to the Midwest League and started to find a little comfort. Near the end of the season, another injury opened up the backup catcher's spot at Triple-A Albuquerque, which Ogle filled.
In a season that spanned four levels, Ogle never played more than 18 games at any stop.
"It was a lot of moving around," he said. "But it taught me I have to be mentally tough."
Ogle also has honed his ability to make adjustments at the plate. His swing is vastly different than it was in college and he's learning to adapt from day to day, as needed. He spent the offseason working on staying through the ball, but when he arrived at Spring Training, he felt his mechanics crumbling. He quickly got back to basics, rediscovered his timing and headed into the regular season ready to rake.
"Every time I feel my swing isn't there, I'm working night and day to fix it," Ogle said. "I know how important it is to go to the plate with a clear head. I have to rely on having good mechanics and if my mechanics aren't good, I know I have to change something.
"My swing goes through its peaks and valleys, and the highs are high and the lows are low. If I can keep it consistent, it's going to work out better in the long run."
His work behind the plate also has gone through an overhaul. Ogle was a solid enough Big 12 catcher, but in pro ball, his arm is below average, putting extra pressure on his release and accuracy. Dodgers catching coordinator Travis Barbary worked tirelessly with him to change his throwing motion and Ogle, who played first base Sunday, thinks the work is starting to pay dividends.
"In extended, whatever game I was playing in, when [Barbary] was visiting, he would take it upon himself to make sure I'm being consistent," Ogle said. "I think I do a pretty good job receiving and blocking, and I'm learning a lot about pitching staffs.
"In pro ball, you call the game and you need to know the hitters, know their swings, and be telling people where to be in the field. It's the whole nine yards. It's so much different, and also having to deal with everyone's personalities and with the language barriers. ... My catching has changed tremendously. I'm just trying to get better a little big at a time."
On Sunday, Dodgers No. 4 prospect and 2012 first-round pick Corey Seager scored twice for the Loons, while Alexis Aguilar went 3-for-5 with two RBIs.